“How was El Salvador?” “What was your favorite part about your trip?” Upon arriving back to work I was bombarded with these questions about my trip. It’s really hard to pinpoint my favorite part about the trip. I can of course tell you all my highlights, I can tell you all about coffee and what I learned, but thats not entirely me. Yes, I love coffee. But I don't live, breath, sleep it. However, the Menendez Family & their farm workers surely do. It’s the passion of these people everything they do is for the good off their coffee plants, workers, & their surrounding community. They are truly amazing people, with such compassion & love for the business they have created for themselves. Nothing brought the farmers more joy than to see my reaction tasting their coffee and loving the heck out of it.
In the Rostery I heard owner Randy Evans talking about El Salvador, and how he was sending one of our wholesale accounts & our manager to pick some coffees out, I sly-dogged & asserted myself into this conversation that was not directed at me (as I do a lot of the time). I realized I am amazing at convincing people to let me do things. By the end of the week this gal was officially booked and going to El Salvador.
Going up to the farm I was very appreciative we drove. It was a trek and a half. A small fraction of me wish they had made us walk up one day, just to really appreciate how much the Farm workers walk in a day, but I was equally as relieved when we were consistent with the truck transportation. When arriving to the main mill I was confused. I know a bit about coffee, but when someone tells you about a subject, vs. when you physically see something you have a better understanding visually (obviously.) The process of coffee blew my mind. For real.
We were lucky enough to visit the farm during prime harvest season. Im not just talking about prime coffee harvesting season either, Im talking about food seasons. Oh my goodness the food - pupusas, pastelitos, beans?!? Who knew beans could taste so amazing, they did. But, prime harvest time. We were able to go through the entire process of coffee production. We picked cherries one day, “we” as in everyone but me, I was busy picking the wild raspberries with Carlitos, they tasted like a mix between raspberries, strawberries, and sangria, seriously delicious. We then hauled our bag of cherries to the Wet Mill. The crew takes truck loads of the cherries and drops them into the washing station, from there the process begins. A hose of recycled water comes through and constantly washes the cherries through the de-pulping. The cherries start at the top, get a nice turbo blast of water to send them down the way, from there they are placed into a bladed system that removes the outer layer & de-pulps it. It is then sent through cylinders that shake the cherries and remove yet again any layer that has still managed to stick on. Its than carried through the demucilage system and the sticky layer is removed. Removing all of the cherry prior to drying allows the flavors of the bean to open up without restricting their taste profile. The beans are carried up a rotating cylinder and put into a silo awaiting their ride to the patio where they will be turned for hours until the humidity reaches 12%.
Side-note: shout out to ALL the workers at the Menendez Farm, these workers are the most welcoming, smiling, & hardworking individuals. I made the effort to try & learn as many names as I could, they were appreciative of my efforts. The work they endure is incredibly labor intensive. Miles upon miles of walking, carrying 100 pound cherry sacks, 95+ degrees weather, very repetitive work, yet they always had a smile to share passing by. As the beans reach their ideal humidity point, they are covered with burlap bags for the night to ensure that they will stay at that level. The next morning they are placed onto raised beds & sorted looking for any defective beans (this process can take days!) Unfortunately the only process I wasn't able to see was the final sort process in the mill, along with the bagging, stamping, and final steps in putting the green coffee beans into their burlap bags, and preparing for ship outs. This is a direct relationship trade farm, which means the farmers + producers manage and maintain all importing & exporting, there’s no middle man. The Menendez Family receives all the profits from the coffee they harvested, this also benefits to maintain a living compensation for their workers. We hope you enjoy the coffee as much as we do. We carefully chose 2 coffees out of 47, and are excited to introduce these fresh crops into our Sandpoint & Coeur d’Alene cafes. | Blog written by Cora Murray |